Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bottom line: the money was not his

My initial inclination was to like the New Zealand writer Martin Edmond, Kim Hill’s guest on the “Playing Favourites” segment of her radio programme this morning – admittedly for no better reason than that the first song he chose to play was Walk Away Renee, by the Four Tops, one of my favourite Tamla Motown acts. But then Edmond told an anecdote about one of his experiences as a Sydney cab driver, and my view of him changed.

He had picked up two men at a pub in Bondi Junction and taken them a short distance to another pub. He then picked up another fare and took her to, I think, Elizabeth Bay. After she had left the cab he turned the interior light on and found $1000 in rolled-up notes on the front passenger seat, which he assumed one of the men from Bondi Junction had left behind. (Presumably his woman passenger sat in the back.)

So what did he do with this find? He took it home. He said he still has it. He told Kim Hill he thought the men were going to buy cocaine – a rationalisation for his decision to keep the money, perhaps – but offered no evidence for that theory.

My first reaction was, why did he not go back to the Bondi Junction pub to see whether he could find the men? He could have ascertained whether the money was theirs – “Is it possible you left something in my taxi?” – and if it was, he surely could have negotiated some sort of emolument for the time and trouble he took to return it. This possibility doesn’t seem to have occurred to him.

A woman listener subsequently emailed Kim Hill’s programme asking why Edmond didn’t take the money to the police. If no one claimed it, she said, it would eventually have been returned to him. At least an attempt would have been made to return it to its rightful owners.

Hill’s response to this suggestion was sneering and condescending, as if the emailer was a pathetically naïve goody-two-shoes. Edmond seemed to agree, noting that the New South Wales police were notoriously corrupt. Another self-serving rationalisation?

I found it interesting that Edmond blithely related this story without any hint that his conscience troubled him. Very telling. Equally telling was Hill’s response. She never hesitates to pounce on the peccadilloes of people she doesn’t approve of, but it doesn’t appear to have occurred to her to question Edmond’s honesty.

Bottom line: the money was not his. He has no right to it. Neither does he have any right to assume that the cash was somehow ill-gotten, and that therefore he had no obligation to return it. I’d be interested in what other people think.


Anonymous said...

I had half an ear on the story. I picked up the impression that the story was exactly as you have related it and started listening more closely. He relates how various people gave him advice, in one case the advice was to keep the money for the people who'd lost it. He found this vastly amusing as did Kim!

I was reminded of an editorial in the Listener many years ago. The editor related an incident in which he had received mail intended for a previous resident. He admitted that usually in such circumstances he simply binned such mail, and made it clear he assumed that to be the normal course of action for the vast majority of his readers.

Truth Seeker said...

Much would depend on the circumstances.

Active stance: Go look for them. But, what if the address where the men were dropped off was somewhere you were very unlikley to be able to locate them? perhaps an apartment building or shopping area or similar. We don't know. You would have to park and leave the vehicle and go in search of them. Meanwhile, you're not working. Hmmm. If you don't want to lose income because someone else had made a mistake, move on to......

Passive Stance Step 1: Most people losing a wad of cash would call the cab company within a short space of time and try to contact the cabbie by identifying time of day and the origin and end points of the fare. So holding on to the money for 24 or 48 hours would allow time for nature to take it's course and things to be sorted out with a minimum of fuss.

I would think that 99 times out of 100, this would be the way it would go. But if not......

Passive Stance Step 2: Contact the police and ask their advice. GET A RECEIPT for the cash if you leave it with.


But if two days have passed and no one has tried to recover the money, what point is there in going to the police? If they have not already been contacted, then they likely will not be.

Conclusion: Edmonds probably made the story up.

homepaddock said...

In a class at a language school in Spain we were discussing what we'd do if we found a wallet. There were 10 of us from different countries Britain, Japan, Switzerland, Germany, USA, France & me from NZ. I was the only one who said I'd hand it in to the police.

I'm not sure what that says about the others and their countries; but my stance might be a reflection on a Presbyterian upbringing and/or a do-as-you-would-be-done-by philosophy.

If I lost something of value I'd hope an honest person would return it so that's how I'd act if I was the one who found it.

Truth Seeker said...

hp: A wallet has ID in it. The roll of cash in the Sydney Taxi is a quite different thing. Cash is anonymous. I'd hand in a wallet without a moment's hesitation.